San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Owner of prominent Costa Rican massage parlor arrested on pimping charges

“Gringo Gulch” is getting smaller by the day.

The once-thriving hotbed of massage parlors and hookup bars in downtown San José saw another business shuttered Thursday afternoon after police raided the New Fantasy massage parlor in San José’s historic Barrio Amón district. The 60-year-old owner of the long-running New Fantasy was subsequently arrested on pimping charges, according to the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ).

The suspect owned the pension and would host prostitutes in his bar and massage rooms to offer sexual services in exchange for money. Since prostitution not a criminal activity in Costa Rica, there’s nothing illegal about that first part. However, the OIJ indicated that the suspect would take a 50 percent chunk of the money earned by the women in his establishment, which violates the country’s pimping laws.

San José Municipal Police officers said the business will remain closed and be handed over to the Public Ministry for the time being. This is at least the third time the massage parlor has been raided and closed down since it opened its doors 15 years ago.

An OIJ report said that Costa Ricans were charged a rate of ₡18,000 (about $35) per hour at the establishment, while foreigners were charged at least $50 per hour.

The raid comes on the heels of another well-known pension closing in the same neighborhood for ownership reasons.

“Gringo Gulch” is a common nickname for an area of San José replete with massage parlors and prostitution-friendly hotels popular with foreign male tourists.

These business owners have also been put on notice by a local court’s decision to sentence famed sex tourist David “Cuba Dave” Strecker to five years’ prison time. Strecker was convincted of illegally promoting Costa Rica as an international destination for sex tourists.

Strecker’s lawyer has told The Tico Times that an appeal has been filed and they are likely to receive a response next month.

Contact Michael Krumholtz at

Comments are closed.

Ken Morris

Take it easy with the insinuations about how this is a gringo thing.

Within walking distance from New Fantasy, I can personally show you at least a dozen brothels operating according to the same exact business model, and not many have more than the stray gringo show up from time to time. They are primarily Latino operations, as also I believe is even New Fantasy (although it has historically been one of the more popular brothels with the gringos). Counts are all over the place, but a recent figure I saw put the number of brothels in the Central Valley at 134.

Gringos simply aren’t the major players in Costa Rica’s sex industry. I do think that their minority role can be important, mainly because large-scale sex tourism seemingly distorts the underlying market, but this is a different line of interpretation than charging that gringos create (or sustain) the market.

And interestingly, the main gringo-oriented venues for sex veer away from the pimping model that characterizes most Latino venues, including New Fantasy. It’s rare for a gringo-oriented venue to have a middleman/pimp, though it’s the norm for the Latino-oriented places.

I have long wondered why Costa Rica allows this open pimping under the fiction of a pension license, and have long wanted authorities to close all these brothels. That is, with Costa Rica’s stated position as well as with the stated position of most human rights proponents, I believe that prostitution ought to be legal and pimping illegal. It disturbs me that widespread pimping is tolerated.

Hundreds of brothels could and should be closed for the same reason that New Fantasy was, and this wouldn’t hurt providers or clients at all. There are other ways to organize a sex industry that don’t involve creepy guys dressed in black setting the providers’ fees and then pocketing half of it.

But something tells me that these brothels won’t be closed (and New Fantasy will likely be open again by the time you read this). Authorities have never been serious about opposing pimping, but propelled by NGOs like Rahab have long been serious about faulting gringos for a sex industry premised on pimping and found in darn near every neighborhood in the country.

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Fernando Gerdano

Gonzalo Abarca Leal, the clients (and owners) of these brothels are 99% TICO, look in the mirror. Stop blaming someone else.

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You are so out of touch Gonzalo Abarca Leal. Prostitution has been in grained into the culture of Costa Rica for decades. Pension and night clubs have sprung up in every canton though out CR. To blame this on the tourist and especially the ex pats living here or those traveling here is pure stupidity. Del Rey,key Largo, Zona Blue, New Fantasy, Monicas, El Cocal of Jaco and a hundred other “massage parlors” are dotted though out San Jose. Every town as well has there secret massage parlors as well. Ask you why haven’t these other 100 plus places closed and or been looked at? A single male or a group walking downtown SJ , Jaco, Quepos, Play del Coco and so on will sooner or later be approached by a hooker. All the police know where they are and they too are clients of the massage parlor for a free bee ……. Ironic

Why are they hooking? Many say their boyfriend who fathered their child abandoned them. Or worse abused them and even encouraged them to work the 6th Calle massage parlor or where ever.. So to the men I say you are the problem not supporting your women yes even you Gonzalo Abarca Leal!

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Colin Brownlee

Not just Americans, but people from all over the world including many Tico’s come to partake in the Sex Trade because it is offered. Plain and simple. Don’t look to blame other people. If Costa Rica really does not want it, then pass laws to make it illegal.

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Gonzalo Abarca Leal

Glad to see all these scumbags being arrested and their parlors shutted down. It’s a mystery for me why these Americans come to beautiful Costa Rica to get entangle in sex business. What are their past? Why did they leave USA? What is it the the sex industry is si attracted to them?

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